June 2016

Wild Food Spotlight 2 – Rubus!


First Published on June 22, 2016 Written by Emily van Lidth de Jeude

How many times have blackberries scraped big bloody tears from your leg as you simply attempted to access the beach? Or the salmonberries taken over your garden and you spent day after day cutting them down and then digging out their stubborn, tough roots, only to find them growing back again a couple of months later? How many times have you planted delightful raspberry canes in your garden and found them soon interspersed with those godforsaken-spiny-blackberries-whose-fruit-is-inferior-and-nobody-seems-to-know-the-name-of?! Ha ha! Me too. But I love these Rubus anyway.

The Rubus genus is well-represented both in our gardens and in our island wilderness. We commonly grow raspberry, boysenberry, and wineberry in our gardens, but in the wild here we also find an abundance of red and yellow salmonberries, black raspberries, thimbleberries, and various blackberries: Trailing, Himalayan, and Evergreen (that horridly vicious spiky-looking one).

All of these are known for their heavenly berries, especially when ripened and warmed by the sun and picked during a hike through the woods. But did you know that you can use other parts of the plants as well? The leaves of red raspberries are well known for their use in teas as a uterine tonic, and black raspberry and young blackberry leaves can be picked, dried, and used the same way. Wear gloves, though – their thorns grow under the leaves as well.

And then there are the shoots. Every spring for hundreds if not thousands of years, the fresh shoots of salmonberry, blackberry, and thimbleberry have been harvested young and tender, often eaten fresh, steamed, pickled, or stir-fried. It’s June, and we’re a bit past this stage of their growth by now, but if you do find any soft flexible cane shoots extending up off the older canes or out of the ground nearby, you can pull your hand along them until they snap off like asparagus. When you’re ready to eat them, peel off the skin and prepare them any way you enjoy asparagus. It’s certainly very different, but totally delicious. And each species (even each colour of salmonberry bush) has a different flavour!

Finally berries.

Salmonberries – first of the wild rubus to ripen, they grow unstoppably all over the place, here – especially in wet meadows and roadsides. Those with exclusively green shoots grow yellow/orange berries, and those with red shoots grow red berries which darken to nearly black as they ripen. Salmonberries taste a little brighter, and with less of a rich flavour than other Rubus berries, although the red ones are sweeter than the yellow. Salmonberries seem to develop the most juicy flavour when they’ve plumped up in wet weather and sunshine, but then they’re so watery that they don’t work well in pies. They’re also a little too seedy for baking, since they lose so much water in the process that you’re left with mostly seeds. Also watch out if you’re picking after a few days of rain showers; they tend to lose their flavour, or even get mouldy inside.

Blackberries – sweet, rich, earthy, and a little bit terrifying, if you’ve ever been caught among them. And also the best for baking, which is why you may have been caught there in the first place, heading towards the middle of the brutal thicket, trying to fill a five-gallon bucket for pies. They seem to retain a lot of their juice and flavour when baked or frozen. For fresh eating, I prefer the trailing blackberries, which are smaller and less abundant than the huge invasive species, but which taste sweeter and more precious. Like little diamonds compared to big quartz crystals. One thing to watch out for, these days, is the increasing population of D. suzukii larvae (that’s Drosophila, not David, though you might be forgiven for any confusion…). You may not notice the tiny fruit fly larvae as you pick the berries and shove handfuls into your mouth, but if you freeze them on a tray you might discover many little frozen white larvae protruding from between the drupelets of the fruits. It’s OK. Insect-eating is growing in popularity. Just eat them anyway! They’re the last of the Rubus to ripen in our area, and you’ll want to store them all up for winter.

Black Raspberries – these are far less common here, but if you find them they’re absolutely delectable. So try to! The plants look a little like raspberries, more fragile than Himalayan blackberries, and with smaller leaves and stems than salmonberries. The berries themselves are much darker in colour than cultivated raspberries, but have the same dull waxy coating, so can reflect almost purple in some light. The taste is fantastic, and you’ll likely not find enough to satisfy, so just eat them all fresh and quickly, before they’re gone.

Thimbleberries – ripe around this time of year, tall and green and leggy; home to gall wasps and bane of my garden, and I know people complain about their lack of juice and consequent seediness. They don’t even ripen all at once, forcing us to graze very very slowly… just a few every day. But to me they are worth it all for the flavour. They’re almost shockingly sweet, with both the earthiness of blackberries and the tartness of raspberries. I allow them to grow behind my bean trellis, poking their multi-coloured berries through at the sunshine. By the time the beans grow there, I have eaten them all anyway.

Happy summer, neighbours! I hope you enjoy the bounty of Rubus, this year.

One of Bowen Island’s Success Stories


First published June 8, 2016 Written by The Caring Circle

We were told recently that although Bowen Islanders are concerned about health and the provision of health care on the island, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know anything about the work of Caring Circle. One suggestion to our board, by a local councilor was to make sure Islanders know more about the work we do.
We always feel that we’re talking to our Bowen Community on a regular basis: on the Forum, on Facebook, in the Undercurrent and on our website. When you’re living and breathing your work, you sometimes assume others are also paying attention. From our viewpoint, there are many Islanders who are having trouble coordinating the health services they need.  Caring Circle is reaching out to them in as many ways as we can, providing support. It’s rewarding work and we are told, at least weekly “I can’t thank you enough. This information has made all the difference.” or “thank goodness you’re here to help”.
Just how many Islanders have we helped since we opened our doors three years ago? We have:
• responded to more than 1,000 calls or visits, asking for information about health-related issues
• arranged almost 100 drives to medical appointments for people who couldn’t find any other way to get there
• served 1,150 meals at our lunch program (in partnership with other organizations)
• organized hearing tests on Island for more than 100 people
• conducted 30 weeks of mental health sessions on anxiety and depression, supporting over 40 people
• offered a wide range of health talks, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease, COPD, asthma and diabetes –  over 50 Bowen Islanders benefited from these sessions
• hosted the Public Health Nurse monthly visits for families with young children
Here are three stories drawn from hundreds, highlighting our work. Our work is confidential therefore we have changed some of the details to ensure anonymity.
A lonely and isolated woman with serious health issues and no immediate social support network came into Caring Circle every week or so just to talk – to see a friendly face. After we built a relationship, it was clear that she had financial issues that prevented her from accessing appropriate healthcare.
Caring Circle connected her to an accountant who completed her taxes free of charge (they had not been filed for many years). This allowed her to apply, with our help, for a number of government support services. She also had health appointments in town and our driver program was able to get her to her treatments at Lions Gate Hospital.
What would have happened without Caring Circle? In this person’s case, as in many we deal with, helping her access the social support services she qualified for allowed her to remain on Bowen, paying her rent and otherwise supporting herself as opposed to perhaps being homeless or worse?
A social worker from Lion’s Gate Hospital called to say they were discharging a patient home and wanted to confirm that this person would be well supported on island. Caring Circle knew, because we have the pulse on many seniors’ circumstances on Bowen, that this individual had, in fact, no support at home, and lived in a very precarious environment. Through conversations with the social worker, Caring Circle had the discharge delayed until home nursing support and other accommodations were put in place to allow this person to rehabilitate more safely.
What would have happened without Caring Circle? This person would have spent the long weekend alone in very frail health, with no heat in her home and no food in her fridge.
A family with young children were over-whelmed with the increasing responsibilities of looking after an elderly parent. They came into Caring Circle to see if there was some way to get their parent’s needs met and respite for themselves. They were considering a long-term care facility but approached Caring Circle to explore other options, as they didn’t want to move the parent off island, away from family and friends.
Caring Circle suggested other options that might allow their parent to stay on island, including connecting them to a companion support worker, organizing rides through our driver program to health related appointments and arranging her participation in other seniors programming on Bowen.
What would have happened without Caring Circle? This family might have reluctantly placed their parent in off island long-term care. Instead, this senior didn’t have to move off of Bowen, the family got much needed respite and the parent gained more independence and resilience in getting her own needs met. Although Caring Circle might document that we supported this one elderly person, in fact, an entire family was impacted by the work we did.
There are so many stories to tell about the ways we have guided people to the care and services they need and we will be sharing many more with you over the next few weeks.
Please visit us at Caring Circle to hear more about what we do. We’re behind the Library in the Heritage Cottage on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Phone (604) 947-9100 – website: caringcircle.ca.


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